RAZORED ZEN

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Where Micro Weird Came From

I thought I might occasionally try a new feature here on the blog wherein I talk about the genesis of certain projects. Today’s choice is Micro Weird:Tiny Tales of the Strange. Back at the end of 2012, I was working on the third piece in my Fiction Techniques series, “The Twist Ending.” As part of the research for that work, I both read and wrote a number of flash fiction pieces with twist endings, and I went back and analyzed all the twist ending stories I’d written in the past. A lot of things became clear during that period.

FictionTechniques #3: The Twist Ending, was published in January of 2013, and I’d already started to consider publishing a collection of the twist ending pieces I’d written. Turns out I had quite a few of them lying around that had not been collected, and over the next couple of months I wrote several more.

In March 2013, I published these under the title Micro Weird: Tiny Tales of the Strange. Micro Weird is the most eclectic collection I’ve ever produced. It contains horror stories, science fiction tales, humor, and even some mainstream pieces. The common denominator that ties the stories together is the “twist ending.” If you like twist-ending tales, Micro Weird might be just the collection for you. It’s only 99 cents.

Here’s the Table of Contents for the collection:
AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART
EYE SPY
SEASON OF RUST
HIGH IQ
GIVING UP THE GHOST
PAST PERFECT
LOVE STORIES
THAT CAT IS ON DRUGS, MAN
INSPIRATION
ANIMAL BEHAVIOR
A FACE ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE
FAR BEYOND HOME
THOUGHT FLOW
THE TEETH OF THE WIND
FOREVER, OUT OF LOVE

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

David Goodis: The Wounded and the Slain

I first heard of David Goodis probably ten years ago. I’d never read anything by him but I heard he was a noir writer, generally lumped in with folks like Jim Thompson. Most people who knew of him seemed to like him. I finally found a book by him at a bookstore, The Wounded and the Slain, and picked it up. This last week I finally read it.

Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed. I probably won’t be reading any more Goodis unless something falls into my lap. The book was billed as a Noir/crime novel but I'd classify it largely as a romance. It’s certainly not even in the same species as Thompson’s work, which I like quite a lot. There is one criminal act shown in the book, and the plot does turn in part on it. However, the story is really about a marriage on the rocks. A man is drinking himself into oblivion because his wife is frigid. He loves his wife and she loves him, but something that happened in her childhood makes her unable to enjoy sex. That is all resolved in the end, but in a very simplistic fashion that bears no relationship to the actual psychology of such cases.

The main problem, for me, though, is that the book is almost all introspection. There’s almost no action outside of one bar fight. We see the man drinking in this bar or that bar. We see the woman alternately wondering about where her husband is and appreciating the manliness of another man. This is all done through internal monologue. The worst part of it is that the internal monologues didn’t seem very realistic to me. At least in this book, Goodis didn’t seem to have much of a feel for the way real people think and act.

I see from reviews on Goodreads that quite a few people enjoyed the book, and it was well enough written for what it was. It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea but who knows if it might be yours.


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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Coming Late to Game of Thrones

I'm sure everyone here knows about Game of Thrones. It is both a series of massive fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, and an HBO TV series. The first book was published in 1996 and the series is actually called "A Song of Ice and Fire."  It stands at 7 volumes now. The TV series is based on the novels, although they have apparently parted company with the books over time. It is up to season 5 now, and a 6th and 7th seasons are planned.

A couple of years ago, Lana started watching the TV series on DVD. She clearly loved it because she binged watched whole seasons in a day. I caught snippets here and there and it looked like something I'd like, but she was always watching it when school was in session or I had writing deadlines so I never got to catch it.

Since I'm off for the summer, though, Lana brought season 1 home a few days ago. We watched the first four episodes on Saturday, and the next five on Sunday. This is the first time I've ever binge-watched a TV series like this. I reckon that means I enjoyed it. I thought the first three episodes were good but a little slow, full of a bit more dialogue than I might have liked, but it was a slow burn that really ignited at about episode 5. From there it was a race to the season ender, with well developed cliffhangers at the end of each episode.

Great sets, though I might quibble with a piece here and there. But mostly some really fine acting and writing. I definitely enjoyed it and it's so nice to see some serious fantasy work brought to the screen.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lucid and Semi-Lucid Dreams

I know I've talked a lot on this blog about my dreams. I hope it isn't too boring. This post is going to be about dreaming too, particularly about two dreams I had this past week. 

I've mentioned "lucid" dreams here before. These are dreams in which the dreamer becomes aware that he or she is dreaming. I have these fairly often. There are two layers to lucid dreaming. In the first layer, you become aware of the dream but are unable to change anything about it. You're along for the ride. In the second layer, you can actually manipulate things in the dream. I have both experiences, though usually when I become aware that I'm dreaming I can manipulate it. And when I do, I immediately start to fly!  What can I say, I just love flying.

At the end of last week I had a lucid dreaming and was flying through a cityscape when a new idea occurred to me. I was flying "around" the buildings. Why? Since I knew it was a dream, the buildings were only there in my imagination. I immediately decided to fly "through" a building. I turned toward a big brick skyscraper and accelerated directly into the wall. It shattered as I hit it and the whole top of the building exploded in a scene worthy of a modern action thriller. I came out the other side unharmed, exhilarated as flames and smoke rose behind me.

Two nights ago, I had a different lucid dreaming experience, another first for me. I'm calling it a semi-lucid dream. Here's what happened.  

Lana and I had company at our house, although the place was different. There was no tin roof on the back porch and the yard was more open. We could see a stream not far away. We were outside in the late evening when I noticed a distant silhouette of some huge flying creature. A plane was flying by at the same time and distance so I could compare. I told Lana the silhouette looked like a dragon. Lana said, “I wish.” (Jeopardy that evening had a dragon category that both Lana and I enjoyed.)

As I looked back to our yard, a huge hot-air balloon without a basket came floating through the trees and then hovered, billowing in the air over the stream. It was shaped like a clown face, very pale, almost mime-like. As I looked at it, it spoke to me, though I can’t remember what it said.

At that moment I realized I was dreaming and told Lana. This is where I have to use the term semi-lucid to describe this dream. Although I knew I was dreaming and that the clown-face wasn’t real, I actually kept Lana in the dream with me. I told her that we were going to fly, which I do in lucid dreams, and stepped forward and wrapped my arms around her.

As I tried to lift off, however, I could barely budge us, as if we were too heavy together to fly. Then I sort of laughed and realized how ridiculous that was. Weight made no difference in a lucid dream. I relaxed myself, held Lana tight, and lifted off slowly into the air. As we rose, we spun around and around as if we were dancing. Lana clung to me very tightly, and as we reached the height of the trees around us, I could tell she was a bit nervous. I let us slowly sink back to earth.

As we landed, Lana was all smiles. She turned to go in the house and I moved to follow her but glanced back one more time at the sky. The hot air balloon face had been replaced by a gigantic fantasy moon. It was red/orange/black, with a clearly defined face of shadowy eyes, mouth and nose. “See,” I called after Lana. “It’s a dream.”

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Frustration

Most of Friday afternoon, May 8,  and Saturday morning, May 9, were spent in graduation ceremonies at my university. As faculty, we get to sit and listen to a lot of speeches and a lot of cheers. One thing we get time to do is think, though. Since graduation marks the true beginning of summer writing for me, I generally do a considerable amount of planning on how to proceed.

These days, of course, writing is only a part of what we do. We also have to promote. I seldom get a chance to do promotion during the school year other than an occasional post on facebook and blog. During the summer, though, I always try to do more. I believe my stories are good but just haven’t seemed to generate either steady sales or buzz.

Anyway, here’s where the frustration of the title comes in. I came up with a promotional plan during the graduation ceremony. I got home and did a couple of quick posts in that vein and made announcements or sent emails requesting information. Then I had to nap because I’d only gotten 4 hours sleep the night before. I get up to see if there have been any responses to the stuff I sent out before the nap. But before I can make the needed replies, the internet goes down.

Turns out, it’s not the net per se but our phone line that is down, and that’s how we get our internet, through AT & T. I call them. They say there’s a problem on the line but they are working on it and should have it resolved by Monday sometime. That means two days at least without internet access at home. Of course, I quickly realized that they are likely lying to me. I remembered in 2014 we had a similar problem, and checked my journal. On May 11, 2014, the day after graduation ceremonies that year, our phone, and net, went out for a week. Those kinds of coincidences don’t just happen so this is some kind of planned outage by them.

Certainly, there are plenty of writing related things I can do, not least of which is actual writing, but—in many ways—the net has become a big part of actually stringing together a story. I’m constantly looking up things, maybe something about sailing ships, or the economy of Roman cities, or what a particular sword hilt looked like. Some I can find in my collection of pre-internet reference books, but much of it I don’t have in hard copy. I found myself on Saturday night leaving lots of phrases and words printed in red with question marks around them that I’ll have to look up when we do get the net back.

If I lived in the city, I could take my laptop next door to the coffee shop or library to connect. Abita Springs doesn’t have a coffee shop with Wi-Fi. Their library branch is so small that there’s no place to sit inside with a laptop to work. The closest place to get access to Wi-Fi and a seat is the Covington library, which is about a 25 minute drive one way.

I should be used to it by now in life. The frustration. It’s an ongoing and constant thing. But to have to wait for time to put a plan into action, to get to the point where you have the time and start to implement things, and then that chance is snatched away…. It makes me want to scream.

Here’s what it’s like. Imagine you’re a kid and every day on your way from school you walk past a candy shop. One Monday you see, in the window display,  the most delicious looking chocolate chip cookie ever. It’s as big as both your hands together and looks warm and gooey and like it was baked in heaven. The price is a dollar and you don’t have that much, but you will as soon as you get your allowance on the weekend. You get a huge grin on your face thinking about next Monday, about how on your way home from school you’re going to get that cookie and sit down in the sun under a tree somewhere and devour it to the very last crumb.  

Monday comes. You wait all day in anticipation. As soon as school is over you rush to the candy store, hurry inside with your allowance money in your hot little hand. Maybe you’ll buy two cookies. You’ve got the cash. You run up to the counter and tell the lady that you want one of the big chocolate chip cookies in the window. You point to the display. You beam with delight as you lay your money on the counter. She says: “Sorry, we’re sold out of those. Not sure when we’ll get another batch in. But try back next week.”

Maybe, for a minute, you think about just stealing that cookie from the display window and running off with it. But you know, that cookie isn’t real. It’s just a clever facsimile meant to make you want what you can’t have.

NOTE: To give credit where credit is due, our phone and net were actually out for only about twenty-four hours. They got it up faster than I expected and I was happy for that. I’d already written this post, however, and still wanted to share that cookie metaphor. Twenty-four hours is still long enough to generate some frustration.
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Friday, May 08, 2015

Crashing Suns, by Edmond Hamilton

I tried sending Patti a notice that I'd like to take part in Forgotten Books Friday but I don't think we managed to connect. It's the first time in a long time I've had a chance to do anything for that. Anyway, here's an unofficial entry for Forgotten Books Friday: 



Anything that I could find at our small-town library that smacked of science fiction got checked out and brought home. Thus it was I stumbled upon a little paperback called “Crashing Suns,” by Edmond Hamilton. I didn’t recognize the author’s name at the time; I was more familiar with Asimov, Clarke, Anderson, Heinlein. It didn’t matter. The cover showed a rocket-ship and a round, pink, fuzzy alien with multiple limbs pointing a blaster at an astronaut. More importantly to me, the words “Crashing Suns” and the catch phrase on the cover of “Red alert for the Interstellar Patrol” ignited my imagination. Many, many years later, I found a copy of this book in a used book store and snapped it up. It’s too brittle and worn to read again but I still cherish it.

The book contains five novella length space opera stories, the title piece, “The Star Stealers,” “Within the Nebula,” “The Comet Drivers,” and “The Cosmic Cloud.” From what I can find out, all five of the stories were published in Weird Tales between 1928 and 1930. All but the first involve the Interstellar Patrol, sort of a pre-Federation Starfleet that defends the galaxy from evil. Hamilton apparently wrote these tales in a white heat and they sometimes show it. The science is often inaccurate and the language is quite overblown with flights of fancy in many places. But, you know, I don’t care. Hamilton was clearly enjoying himself and I enjoyed right along with him. There’s passion and excitement and that can make up for a lot of technical slights. I still want to join the Interstellar Patrol. I may be 56 on the outside, but inside I’m still 12 when I hear the siren call of “Crashing Suns.”

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